JON FINER and ROBERT MALLEY. Trump is right to seek an end to America’s wars (The New York Times International Edition).

The president’s desire to disentangle the country from costly overseas conflicts must be encouraged. Continue reading

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MICHAEL McKINLEY. The unsettling reality if Five Eyes is the guardian against Huawei, Part 2: A survey audit concerning prudence, integrity, law and ethics.

In the frequent denunciations of Huawei and ZTE the inference is that these Chinese corporations are existing, or potential espionage agents of the Beijing Government and a threat to all who have been foolish enough to acquire their products.  These threats, moreover, are held to be of a type that are politically, legally and ethically enjoined by the Five Eyes community and it is these axiomatic principles which distinguish it from others less scrupulous. To believe this requires a deposition of the type of religious faith which Voltaire saw resulting from the first knave’s encounter with the first fool. An examination of three propositions might suffice to indicate that Five Eyes’ protection involves a preference for an intra-alliance schedule of threats, costs and risk, which are never made explicit over another schedule of an external nature, not the absence of threats.   Continue reading

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RAMESH THAKUR. Nuclear arms: A year of living dangerously

Last January, the Doomsday Clock was moved to two minutes to midnight — the closest it has ever been, matching the acute sense of crisis of 1953. The primary explanation for the heightened threat alert was disturbing developments in the nuclear realm.

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STUART REES. Redefining anti-Semitism erodes freedom of speech.

Claims about western values usually include praise for the freedom enjoyed through governments’ respect for freedom of speech. Yet, even in democratic states, those principles are being treated as outmoded, not least in regard to criticism of Israeli policies towards Palestinians. Other countries also ride roughshod over freedom of speech. Control of the media and suppression of dissent is spreading like wildfire in Sudan, Serbia, Hungary, China, Russia, Egypt, India and elsewhere. Reference to the disregard of free speech in these other countries needs to be made in anticipation of the response, ‘When examining human rights abuses, why single out Israel?’  I am doing so because widening interpretations of anti-Semitism, designed to protect Israeli policies from scrutiny, represent a serious challenge to western commitments to freedom of speech. Continue reading

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MUNGO MacCALLUM. The pugnacious potato has done it again.

Having unleashed his innumerate megalomania to destroy Malcolm Turnbull, with the unintended consequence of almost certainly scuttling his government as collateral damage, Peter Dutton has now derailed Scott Morrison’s attempt to mend the fractured relationship with the Pacific.   Continue reading

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MICHAEL McKINLEY. The unsettling reality if Five Eyes is the guardian against Huawei, Part 1: Questions of Honesty and Loyalty.

According to a recent assessment Australia is the world’s 11th most vulnerable country in terms of its exposure to internet security threat.  This is the general case.  The particular case, articulated by the Five Eyes signals intelligence agencies, is that China is to be feared the most because Huawei, the world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, and ZTE, China’s second largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, are both attractive suppliers technologically speaking, and a definite national security risk because they cannot conceivably be regarded as independent of the Chinese Government.   Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 4 Comments

JOHN MENADUE. Joined at the hip to a very dangerous ally that is almost always at war. An update

We are a nation in denial that we are ‘joined at the hip’ to a dangerous ally that is becoming even more dangerous with the increasing privatisation of the US ‘war complex’  The complex is less and less under civilian control. Arms companies in the US and particularly drone manufacturers have powerful interests and the means to keep the US perpetually at war.

Retiring US Defence Secretary Mattis complains that President Trump should show more respect for allies. But the US shows most respect for allies that do what they are told or supinely comply.It has been thus for decades with one US mistake after another and one US President after another.

Apart from brief isolationist periods, the US has been almost perpetually at war; wars that we have often foolishly been drawn into. The US has subverted and overthrown numerous governments over two centuries. It has a military and business complex, almost a ‘hidden state’, that depends on war for influence and enrichment. It believes in its ‘manifest destiny’ which brings with it an assumed moral superiority which it denies to others. The problems did not start with Trump. They are long-standing and deep rooted.

Unfortunately, many of our political, bureaucratic, business and media elites have been so long on an American drip feed that they find it hard to think of the world without an American focus. We had a similar and dependent view of the UK in the past. That ended in tears in Singapore.  Conservatives rail about Chinese influence but we are immersed and dominated by all things American,including the Murdoch media. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, International Affairs | 9 Comments

‘CHRIS HARRINGTON. Care? The scourge of the ward station’

The professionalism in hospitals may have contributed greatly to better data collection and use of technology, but after a visit to a hospice and an ICU unit recently, I wondered what has happened to care. Our system is failing us.

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JEFFREY SACHS and others.- Fully Filling the Global Fund.


In a world divided by conflict and greed, the Global Fund’s fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria is a matter of enlightened self-interest and a reminder of how much humanity can accomplish when we cooperate to save lives. For public and private donors, that means providing the financing needed to eliminate all three scourges by 2030.

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LORRAINE CHOW. Ten grim climate scenarios if global temperatures rise above 1.5 degrees celsius.

The (Northern) summer of 2018 was intense: deadly wildfires, persistent drought, killer floods and record-breaking heat. Although scientists exercise great care before linking individual weather events to climate change, the rise in global temperatures caused by human activities has been found to increase the severitylikelihood and duration of such conditions.  Continue reading

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HUGH WHITE. The Costs of Containing China (East Asia Forum)

Washington’s policymakers at last understand that China is a serious strategic rival. For the first time since the Soviet collapse, they recognise that a major country is trying to expand its power and influence at the expense of US global leadership. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 8 Comments

PETER BROOKS. If specialists cannot be fair in their fee charging – should we not be supporting a Royal Commission into medical fees

Well done John Menadue for starting 2019 off with something that must strike at the heart of all Australians- out of pocket medical expenses. Some of the highest in the world and showing no sign of slowing and driven by – let’s be honest – greed on the part of some of our most highly paid doctors. Despite comments over the last few years from some of the Colleges saying that they do not support the significant fees charged by some doctors (and remember it is not a small minority),  little has changed. Comments from the Colleges have stopped and out of pocket expenses continue to increase. Australians are opting out of health insurance, placing strains on both the public and private systems. How long should Australians put up with this behaviour from the medical profession which seems hell bent on destroying the ‘golden goose’ (uncapped fee for service – i.e. charge what you think you can get away with) that has funded their lifestyle.   Continue reading

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RICHARD McGREGOR. We need the Five Eyes spy network, but with oversight (SMH 12.1.2019)

After Canadian authorities seized a top Chinese executive from the telecommunications giant Huawei at Vancouver Airport last month on a US arrest warrant, Beijing immediately set about retaliating.

A couple of Canadians who, until then, had been working openly in China, were detained. Top-level meetings for Canadian diplomats dried up. And Beijing made clear more was to come, threatening “grave consequences” unless the Huawei executive was released.   Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 2 Comments

LAURIE PATTON. The NBN’s year of reckoning

2019 is shaping up as the year we’ll be forced to face the fact we are building a National Broadband Network that simply isn’t good enough. It’s also the year our major telcos will start rolling out their capital-intensive 5G mobile networks, having spent millions of dollars buying up spectrum from the federal government. However, as a nation keen to be a leader in the 21st Century’s digitally-enabled world we’d arguably be better off spending money fixing the dud NBN before investing in mobile networks few people in the know reckon will add much to the consumer experience.

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JOHN MENADUE. The scourge of lobbyists is likely to continue if there is a change of government. A repost from 20 July 2018

Lobbyists are back in the news but it looks as if the scourge of lobbyists will continue in Canberra if Bill Shorten wins the next election. There is no sign that the ALP, like the Coalition is prepared to curb the way lobbyists are corrupting public policy in Australia.. The media reports that lobby firms are taking on ‘labor staffers’ so that they can influence a future Labor Government.   Continue reading

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JOHN MENADUE. We don’t have a coherent health workforce. We have highly trained and professional people working in silos.

In the blue-collar area where there have been very substantial workforce reform and improvements which have helped transform the Australian economy. It was begun under the Hawke/Keating governments and continued under the Howard governments. 

But the health sector the largest and fastest growing in the economy has not been seriously reformed. I ‘guesstimate’ that there is a potential productivity dividend of at least 40% in health workforce reform over the next decade. That 40% may be on the low side.

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A regular collection of links to writings and broadcasts in other media Continue reading

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RICHARD BROINOWSKI. The US-Mexican Border Paradox

President Trump’s characterisation of asylum seekers from Mexico as illegal criminals and rapists threatening American citizens is a cynical distortion of reality. Drug runners and criminals both from Mexico into the United States and vice versa represent a tiny fraction of the flow of one million people who legally cross between the two countries every day to work, shop or visit relatives. A much larger proportion of criminals, from many origins, enter the United States by air.   Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 2 Comments

JONATHAN WEISMAN. American Jews and Israeli Jews break up

The events of the past year brought American and Israeli Jews closer to a breaking point. President Trump, beloved in Israel and decidedly unloved by a majority of American Jews, moved the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, with the fiery evangelical pastors John Hagee and Robert Jeffress consecrating the ceremony.

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Posted in Religion and Faith | 3 Comments

BOB BEADMAN. Financial Crisis in the Northern Territory.

Clearly, budget outcomes rely on two simple issues – income and expenditure. 

On the income side of the ledger, the Northern Territory is hugely reliant on our share of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). We have been gutted.

On the expenditure side, the Northern Territory Government has been under enormous pressure to spend. The armchair experts (usually in leafy suburbs on the east coast) seem to expect that the Territory has a limitless capacity to provide gold plated social services, of EVERY kind found in the big cities, to every small pocket of population in the bush.

The Australian Government was quick to appoint a Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (but not the States who all have serious problems I notice), but slow to assist with implementation of the 189 recommendations. And it has for decades tried to get away with providing the capital funds for something, and then dumping the recurrent costs of operating it on the NT. We could go on and on. Continue reading

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JOHN MENADUE. The ‘war on drugs’ is a disastrous failure.We must find a better way

Attached is a collection of articles on drug policy reform, which were published as a series on Pearls and Irritations between 6 and 11 August 2018. This series was designed to draw attention to this important issue, and to the failure of our current policies.

Despite the clear failure of the war on drugs across the world our police and border force officers tell us breathlessly time and time again about another record drug haul. Who are they kidding about the success of present policies.?Do they even believe their own propaganda? When will they stop and ask themselves some hard questions. They might even suggest to Ministers that they need to embark on a thorough re think of failed policies.  The stubbornness of politicians is putting more and more lives at risk. Continue reading

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JOHN MENADUE. The Best of 2018: Why dental care was excluded from Medicare and why it should now be included.

In 1974, the Whitlam Government decided to exclude dental care from Medicare for two reasons.  The first was cost. The second was political in that Gough Whitlam felt that combatting the doctors would be hard enough without having to combat dentists as well.

Forty-four years later, with Australia much richer and the proven success of Medicare, it is now time for dental care to be progressively included in Medicare. Continue reading

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ALLAN PATIENCE. It’s time for a constitutional reform commission

Acting on references from attorneys-general, the independent Australian Law Reform Commission and its state government equivalents review and recommend reforms to existing laws, and/or identify where new laws are necessary. When it comes to the Australian Constitution, the highest level of law in the country, the case for an independent constitutional reform commission along similar lines to law reform commissions has never been stronger.

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PETER WOODRUFF. What Matters at the Show and in the Church.

I spent my childhood and youth in Tasmanian towns, never had any desire to live on a farm but always enjoyed going to what I knew as ‘the show’, which was in fact an agricultural show. The show offered two kinds of spectacles: what went on in the side-shows and what happened in the main arena.   Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | 3 Comments

ROSS GITTINS. Don’t assume more expressways and trains will fix traffic jams. (SMH 1.12.2018)

When Marion Terrill, of the Grattan Institute, set out to find out how much commuting times had worsened in Sydney and Melbourne, she discovered something you’ll find very hard to believe. But it would come as no surprise to transport economists around the world.    Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Infrastructure | 3 Comments

MASSIMO FAGGIOLI. Why I cannot even think about leaving the Catholic Church (La Croix International).

We do not know what kind of Church there will be after this abuse crisis, but we must assume that it will probably get worse before it gets better. 

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Posted in Religion and Faith | 1 Comment

JOHN MENADUE. The Pandora’s box of excessive medical specialists fees! An update and repost from April 19 2017

‘Perhaps [we could consider] a review of what Pierre Trudeau and his government (in Canada) did in 1984 when they took on a system not dissimilar to ours – uncontrolled fee for service – and legislated that doctors could charge what they liked BUT unless they adhered to the fee negotiated between the provincial government and the profession (on an annual basis) the doctor lost all access to a Medicare reimbursement. The system still works today in Canada and few doctors opt out of it. Now there is a thought and a significant game-changer.’ 
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Posted in Health | 4 Comments

ANDREW FARRAN. Brexit: Going for Broke?

Uproar and acrimony has resumed, even more intensely, over Brexit at Westminster this week on the resumption of Parliament following the Christmas break. The expectation, or rather hope, that members might have softened their hard lines after a due period of reflection and deeper thinking, in the ‘national interest’, have been sorely disappointed.

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GARRY EVERETT. A Legal Leap of Faith?

GARRY EVERETT. A Legal Leap of Faith?

In the Weekend Australian (5/6 Jan.’19), Professor Greg Graven wrote an article entitled Taking a Legal Leap of Faith. In essence it is an examination of the key issues involved in trying to legislate in the matter of religious freedom. This is a disappointing contribution. Continue reading

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CHRISTOPHER LAMB. Pope Francis comes out in support of Macron and Merkel in warning against the resurgence of Nationalism.

The Pope said the ‘resurgence of nationalistic tendencies’ is at odds with the ‘vocation’ of international bodies The Tablet 08 January 2019.

Pope Francis leads an annual meeting to exchange greetings for the new year with diplomats accredited to the Holy See, at the Vatican Jan. 7.
Photo: Pope Francis leads an annual meeting to exchange greetings for the new year with diplomats accredited to the Holy See, at the Vatican Jan. 7. Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | 4 Comments